The Way of the Future: ESA for a la carte

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Utah state Rep. John Dougall has announced plans to introduce legislation to fund student education through a system of education savings accounts rather than through a system of payments to districts.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

The plan would be unique in the United States and, just like initiatives from the Utah Legislature on public employee pension reform and Medicaid reform, could become a model for other states, its supporters boast.

For example, one parent of a Highland High School student contacted me recently to complain that his straight-A student wanted to take an AP European history class that is not offered by Highland, but is offered by Skyline, which is in a different school district. The request to remain a full-time student in the Salt Lake District’s Highland High but take that one class in the Granite District’s Skyline High was denied, mostly for reasons of state funding of the school districts, although the  Skyline administration said the class was full anyway.

Dougall says his legislation would solve the problem for that student.

He said the student would not be tied to one particular school. He or she could take, say, four classes at Highland, and pay Highland out of the student account for those four classes, then take two at Skyline, paying the money to Skyline from the account, then take a class at applied technology school and pay that school out of the account.  The student could move between school districts while utilizing his or her schedule and could also use the money for charter schools or online instruction.

The plan would put into the student’s account nearly $6,000 a year under the assumption a typical high school class costs a school district about $700. The account would cover up to eight classes per year, with the ability of rolling the money over to the next year if the entire $6,000 was not spent.

Under Dougall’s vision, if the student didn’t spend all the money in the account during his or her four high school years, that student could use the left-over funds toward college.

Educators say that, conceptually, the plan is intriguing, but myriad details would need to be worked out.

Dougall’s proposal would profoundly empower parents, increase parental involvement, require careful consideration of opportunity costs, and spur education innovation. It builds upon previous steps taken to fund digital learning on a per course basis in Utah.

Let’s see how the discussion unfolds-these types of very far-reaching steps represent precisely the conversation and debate that we should be having.

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3 Responses to The Way of the Future: ESA for a la carte

  1. TC says:

    I LOVE this idea!

  2. [...] a wide array of challenging and effective options to serve them best. In that light Matt Ladner brings our attention to a bold and visionary education transformer, who just so happens to be one of our neighbors to the [...]

  3. [...] (R-Highland) plans to introduce during the 2012 legislative session. As it turns out, Sutherland is not alone in seeing the possibilities for innovation in public education that ESAs [...]

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